In December 1968 the de Young museum in San Francisco opened a controversial photo exhibit on the Black Panthers. The essay was a collaboration of two fairly unknown photographers: Ruth-Marion Baruch and her husband Pirkle Jones. Their photos, however, depicted one of the most defining moments in twentieth-century American cultural history: the Black Liberation Movement embodied by the Black Panthers. The show ended up drawing close to 100,000 visitors.
Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones, 1951.
Photograph by Rose Mandel. ©Rose Mandel Archive/Susan Ehrens
Two years later, in 1970, the exhibit was on display at Cowell College. Pirkle and Ruth-Marion, who by now had become internationally renowned photographers, formed a special bond with the University of California, Santa Cruz and the UC Santa Cruz Library in particular. Pirkle taught on campus with Ansel Adams and worked with students on the Images and Words project. Over the course of many years, the relationship between the photographers and the campus grew. The couple donated a selection of their prints to the UC Santa Cruz Library in 2003. When the UC Santa Cruz Library most recently was invited, along with three other institutions, to submit a proposal and compete for the acquisition of the entire Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch collection, we did not hesitate.
The library’s proposal was successful, and today I am proud and honored to announce that UC Santa Cruz now owns the entire Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch Photography Collection. Assessed by one of the nation’s most respected photography appraisers, the collection is valued at $32 million. It comprises more than 12,000 photographic prints, 25,000 negatives, and thousands of transparencies created by photographer Pirkle Jones, as well as many more by Ruth-Marion Baruch. Our ownership also includes all intellectual rights.
Farm Worker Family, Bakersfield, 1957.
Courtesy Special Collections, University Library, UC Santa Cruz
(Photo by Pirkle Jones)
Click here for more photos from the collection
The enormous value of this gift to our campus is unprecedented. The UC Santa Cruz Library is now the steward of an incredibly rich historic portfolio that documents many aspects of life in California—from the work Pirkle did with Dorothea Lange on the building of the Monticello Dam to Ruth-Marion’s focus on capturing the Summer of Love in San Francisco. The stories Pirkle and Ruth-Marion captured from the 1940s through the 1970s are just as relevant today as when they were created. Our society is grappling with the same social, political, racial, and environmental issues. Our student population has always been eager to engage with these exact issues. This collection will allow students to approach their interest and passion not only through words and text, but also through incredibly beautiful photographs as well as through the example of the lives led by both Pirkle and Ruth-Marion.
The collection has already moved from its storage in San Francisco to McHenry Library. Three 24-foot trucks with more than 900 crates of materials as well as hundreds of framed items have come to UC Santa Cruz. It will take time to process the entire collection, but our goal is to provide access as quickly as possible. We already have plans for exhibits at McHenry devoted to the Black Panthers (2016) and the Summer of Love (2017), and are planning traveling exhibits for 2018 as well as secure digital access. I would like to thank everyone who was involved in ensuring a safe home for the collection.
Richard L. Press University Librarian, Presidential Chair
A selection of framed photos from the Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch Photography Collection will be on display at the Founders Celebration on October 22. Purchase tickets now at founders.ucsc.edu.